On Sunday, we worked on more photo-ID. At one point, there was a picture that was taken at a challenging angle. But we were still able to identify it as Split Jaw (#22). We would have thought that Split Jaw would always be easy to identify – but angles, water quality and distance aren’t always perfect! After photo-ID we discussed two scientific articles on dolphin play – since our Skype guest lecture had to be postponed due to unreliable island internet. The study of play can have many components: object play, social play, etc and we discussed how calves play (including learning from peers) and its importance. Play can teach young animals things they need to know for later in life. It was really interesting to read about the technical aspects of something we have already been able to observe in the field.
On our dolphin trip turned rough and splashy very quickly. One hat went overboard, but it was rescued! At 16:46 we saw our first dolphins: two spotteds, both of which seemed completely unfamiliar to Kel. The older dolphin in particular has Kel very intrigued. These two dolphins were bow riding and surfing, bowriding and surfing, repeating these behaviors. We tested our bow riding camera systems, set up on the bow rail. Hopefully we got enough surface video to get a good look: will they be matched to the catalog? Or will they be new individuals? We tried to get underwater video from the bow, but that system needs some work. Before Kel could get in the water to try to get a quick ID shot, the pair was gone.
Then at 17:11, we got a quick glimpse of a small group of dolphins in the distance, but that was all we saw of them. At 17:36 there were at least 6 bottlenose dolphins. These were darker gray and may have been a group of young offshore individuals. Soon, they too were gone, but another group of coastal bottlenose was immediately seen, which are more typical for this area. These dolphins were surfing and then spending time at the bottom, possibly bottom grubbing. When these dolphins were surfing, their dorsal fins cleared the water, in contrast to what we saw with surfing spotteds earlier in our trip. Although they were scattered, we got some useable ID shots.
Lastly at 18:18 we saw six spotted dolphins, including 2 calves. Some were leaping (it’s what made them easy to spot!), as well as surfing in synchrony. Romeo (#10) and Lil’ Jess (#35) and her calf were the last dolphins on the bow, giving us a nice clear view of them.
“Cetacean Nation” (SHU 2014)
PS: Image to follow!